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    Chapter 164: Master Killing Disciple

    As if in response, a gigantic skeletal foot suddenly stepped out from the surging molten flow. The toenails alone were as wide as cart wheels. When it landed in Sweet Spring Lake, half of the lake was instantly filled. Then, another foot followed, crushing countless orange trees on the shore.

    A colossal skeleton roared as it emerged from the rift in the sky. It turned its stiff skull upward and howled, shaking the heavens. Then, wielding a sharp ax with shackles clanking, it swung down with a "Hah——" onto the shore.

    The giant ax dug into the earth, sending waves of heat and churning mud and rocks. The grass and trees broke instantly.

    Seeing that the spot where Xue Meng stood was about to collapse, a blue light suddenly appeared. It was Nan Gongliu wielding dual swords, using all his spiritual energy to counterattack. A loud explosion echoed as their forces collided, bursting soil and splintered wood everywhere. Xu Shuanglin supported a water barrier nearby and shouted, "Hit its ribs! Can you see?!"

    "I see." Nan Gongliu gritted his teeth, completely abandoning his usual submissive demeanor. He charged at the giant skeleton's ribcage. Mo Ran looked closely and saw a flame burning on the chest of the skull. Within the flame, there seemed to be a figure hanging. He wanted to see more clearly, but the flickering flames from the battle between the giant skeleton and Nan Gongliu obscured his vision.

    Logically, Nan Gongliu had summoned this hundred-to-one killing fiend from hell after much effort. It should have been obedient to him and wreak havoc in the world. However, Nan Gongliu's current stance suggested he was risking everything to fight it to the death.

    That was too strange...

    But Mo Ran didn't have time to ponder further. Xue Meng and the others were still standing there. If they kept fighting like this, they would be caught in the crossfire. Recalling Chu Wanning's hand seals, Mo Ran yelled, "Damn it, Coffin for Ten Thousand Men!" Dozens of red willow vines coiled up from all directions like snakes, wrapping around the chess pieces on the shore before retreating.

    "Not bad. You used it well."

    Chu Wanning's affirmation warmed Mo Ran's chest. At this moment, the person he loved was by his side, and those he wanted to protect were under the protection of the Divine Martial Ghost. Mo Ran felt much more at ease watching them fight now.

    He realized that although Nan Gongliu's offensive spells were unimpressive, his evasion and defense skills were top-notch. It was no wonder that in his previous life, when Mo Ran had slaughtered everyone in the Confucian Wind Sect, this prestigious sect leader had fled faster than a rabbit.

    Though the giant skeleton's attacks were ruthless, its massive size hindered its agility, and it failed to injure Nan Gongliu. Nan Gongliu climbed higher along its bony frame, his flowing robe billowing and the crimson tassel on his hat fluttering. He stood on the giant skeleton's ribcage, looking through the white bones to see the person hanging above its heart...

    Nan Gongliu let out a loud cry, as if someone who had just been freed from immense torment. His voice was twisted and fierce, then he threw his head back and laughed wildly, "Hahaha... Hahahahaha! I found you! Finally... I finally found you!!"

    Bloodshot veins bulged from the depths of his hood, beneath his glowing eyes. Filled with rage and ecstatic joy, he roared, "I found you!"

    The man trapped in flames had his eyes tightly shut. He appeared thin and fragile, with an unremarkable face that was easy to forget.

    Nan Gongliu muttered repeatedly, nearly mad, "I found you, I found you... Haha, hahahahaha... I found you... I found you..."

    With a sudden surge of energy, he lifted the blue sword in his hand and stabbed fiercely towards the core of the giant skeleton, where the sleeping man hung!

    Unexpectedly, at that very instant, the seemingly lifeless man raised his head, abruptly opening his eyes. Xu Shuanglin shouted anxiously and angrily below, "Don't look into his eyes! I told you not to look into his eyes!" But Nan Gongliu was too close, and without warning, their eyes met. Nan Gongliu could only glimpse the round, beast-like eyes with crimson pupils, weeping streams of blood, before he felt a searing pain tear through his body.

    He let out a piercing scream and plummeted straight down from the sky, crashing onto the ground. If not for Xu Shuanglin's protective barrier, his bones would have surely shattered.

    Xu Shuanglin approached hastily, stamping his bare feet on the ground. "Why are you looking at him? Didn't I tell you that whenever you look at him, you can sense the suffering in his soul? You..."

    Mid-sentence, he fell silent as Nan Gongliu struggled to his feet from the ground. His bamboo hat had fallen off, revealing his disheveled bun and a pair of terrified eyes beneath the mess of hair.

    "Ahh... Ahh!"

    The moonlight illuminated his face without obstruction. His fingers spasmed as he desperately tried to cover his face, but it was futile. Every inch of skin exposed to the lunar night rapidly began to crack, burst open, and reveal fresh, crimson flesh beneath. Blood flowed uncontrollably downward.

    "Ahh!!!"

    Nan Gongliu screamed wildly, attempting to cover his face with his sleeves. However, in his panic, his hands and forearms were exposed, and the skin there began to tear rapidly, revealing mottled flesh and blood.

    Mo Ran and Chu Wanning watched from a distance, both incredulous. What was wrong with Nan Gongliu?

    He... couldn't withstand direct exposure to moonlight?

    With cloth fluttering like eagle's wings, Xu Shuanglin removed his outer robe and flung it over Nan Gongliu's face, completely covering him. Standing in the winter night clad only in a white undergarment, he felt no cold at all. His collar gaped slightly, revealing a solid chest rising and falling gently. Seeing Nan Gongliu collapse on the ground, trembling like a sieve, he became momentarily enraged. Lifting his bare foot, he kicked the Sect Leader's head without any respect. "What are you sitting there for? Get up! If you haven't killed it by the time the gathered spiritual energy dissipates, you'll never have a moment's peace!"

    To everyone's surprise, the cowardly and hollow-hearted Nan Gongliu started weeping on the ground, sniffling and wiping his tears. "It hurts so much... I'd rather be dead... Truly, I'd rather be dead... My face is covered in blood... So are my hands... I can't take it anymore... Shuanglin, I can't take it anymore... Please, do it for me..."

    "I'll do it for you, I'll do everything for you!" Xu Shuanglin erupted in fury, kicking him in the face again. "Why don't you just give me the position of Sect Leader and let me take over for you!"

    "How can you think I want this? !" Nan Gongliu howled as he was knocked to the ground. "Don't you think I'm tired of it? ! Luo Fenghua's curse has plagued me my entire life! He made sure I'd be trapped in this position forever! Come on then! I wish someone could take my place! I only regret not being able to remove this ring from my finger!"

    "Luo Fenghua?" Mo Ran whispered. "That name sounds familiar, like I've heard it somewhere before."

    "...He was the previous Sect Leader of the Confucian Wind Sect before Nan Gongliu," Chu Wanning said, his brows knitted tightly as he listened to their conversation. "He only held the position for two years before falling ill and passing away."

    Mo Ran was taken aback. "The Confucian Wind Sect has always been inherited by the descendants of the Nan Gong family. Why would the Sect Leader have the surname Luo instead of Nan Gong?"

    "Normally, they should carry the surname Nan Gong, but Luo Fenghua took power by seizing the throne."

    Upon hearing Chu Wanning's explanation, Mo Ran suddenly recalled reading about this person in a book he had read previously. However, the text had not delved deeply into the matter, and with the Confucian Wind Sect's complicated history filled with grudges and conflicts, Mo Ran had not been particularly interested in reading further and had merely skimmed through the pages.

    His eyes widened slightly. "The Confucian Wind Sect was once overthrown?"

    "Yes. Because it was an embarrassing incident that implicates the current Sect Leader, few people mention it nowadays," Chu Wanning explained. "Nan Gongliu's ascension to the position of Supreme Master was not easy. When he was young, his father lost control and died, naming Nan Gongliu as his successor before passing. However, Nan Gongliu had a younger brother who was arrogant and incredibly skilled in magic. He disagreed with the decision and, on the night of their father's death, seized the Confucian Wind Sect's teaching ring, replacing Nan Gongliu and becoming the head of the sect."

    "In that case, the one who overthrew the throne should also be his brother and have the surname Nan Gong. Why would he have the surname Luo?"

    "Let me finish," Chu Wanning said, watching Nan Gongliu shiver as he got up from the ground and wrapped himself tightly in the cloak given to him by Elder Shuanglin. Once again, he rushed towards the flaming heart of the giant skull. "Nan Gongliu's younger brother was ruthless and cruel. After seizing power, within just three months, he killed two Esteemed Lords of the Upper Realm, claiming that they had mistreated him during the Spirit Mountain Assembly because he was a mere illegitimate son of the Confucian Wind Sect, not judging his matches fairly... Later, he committed even more atrocities, imprisoning everyone who criticized him and gouging out their eyes on the Confucian Wind Sect's square. I didn't witness that calamity myself, but it's recorded in books that the eyes he dug out filled three carriages to be carried away."

    Mo Ran felt a chill run down his spine and remained silent.

    Normally, he should have been enraged and lashed out, but what right did he have to do so?

    This life's Chu Wanning had no idea what Mo Ran had done in his previous life. Driven by personal vendetta, Mo Ran had slaughtered almost everyone in the seventy-two cities of the Confucian Wind Sect and had kept one city lord alive for an entire year, torturing him with slow death before finally allowing him to pass.

    Actually, when he came to the Confucian Wind Sect this time, Mo Ran had tried his best to avoid meeting that city lord. The hatred between them ran too deep.

    He was afraid that if he saw him, he would lose control and commit some outrageous act.

    His violent nature still lingered.

    What right did he have to call others ruthless and cruel?

    Over there, Nan Gongliu drew closer to the core of the giant skull, once again charging at the burning flames with his sword. As he approached, the sword in his hand gleamed coldly.

    Chu Wanning continued, "Luo Fenghua, being that person's master, could not tolerate his disciple's brutality and rebelled alongside Nan Gongliu. On one night, they launched a coup and successfully forced that person out of the position of Sect Leader of the Confucian Wind Sect. However, driven by ambition, Luo Fenghua, now in possession of the sect leader's ring, refused to hand it over to Nan Gongliu..."

    Mo Ran was startled. "He put it on himself?"

    "Indeed," Chu Wanning said. "Each sect leader's token comes with a powerful boost of spiritual energy. These tokens recognize their owners, and the same goes for the Confucian Wind Sect's ring. Whoever wears it becomes its master, unless the sect changes hands. Otherwise, only death can break the bond."

    "...Then Luo Fenghua died after only two years in power. Could it be that Nan Gongliu killed him to reclaim the leadership?"

    Chu Wanning shook his head. "The official records of the Confucian Wind Sect say Luo Fenghua died of an illness. After his death, Nan Gongliu regained the leader's ring, but the truth is anyone's guess. Look at how much effort Nan Gongliu put into luring this monster out to fight, shouting curses... The events of that time were likely far from simple."

    Mo Ran also found it unlikely to be so straightforward, but he still had one question. "What about his brother? What happened to Nan Gongliu's younger brother after he was overthrown?"

    "He's dead," Chu Wanning said. "On the night of the rebellion, Luo Fenghua purged his own disciple, ending his life with a thousand cuts until he was minced into mincemeat."

    Mo Ran: "............"

    Unease washed over him. If Chu Wanning found out about his actions in his past life, would his Master do the same to him, chopping him into a million pieces?

    Lost in thought, he suddenly heard a loud crash. Nan Gongliu's sword pierced the man inside the giant skeleton. The skeleton let out a pained roar as its bony hand dug deep into the earth. In a fit of rage, it swung its arm, uprooting an entire grove of orange trees. Golden fruits tumbled down and were crushed underfoot.

    In the midst of the mingling scents of blood and fruit, the giant skeleton suddenly stood still. It then abruptly knelt, and lava splattered. Its bones instantly turned to dust, disappearing without a trace.

    Nan Gongliu pulled out his long sword and embraced the man who had fallen from the giant skull, exclaiming ecstatically, "I did it! I'm free! The curse is broken—broken, hahahaha!"

    He descended on the wind, landing on the ground just as a group of cultivators, who had sensed something amiss, arrived at Sweet Spring Lake from the Poetic Music Palace.

    Upon seeing the flowing lava, the Solitary Moon Night Sect's leader, Jiang Xi, revealed a look of astonishment on his aloof and handsome face. "Infernal Earthfire?" He immediately waved his sleeve and raised his hand, sprinkling a layer of water-based spirit powder on those behind him. Each sect had its own defensive spells, usually in the form of barriers, but the Solitary Moon Night Sect used spirit powder to protect against the scorching flames.

    After completing this task, Jiang Xi turned back with anger, sharply questioning, "Nan Gongliu, what is going on here?!"

    But Nan Gongliu didn't answer. Instead, he clutched the man he had dragged out of the giant skull tightly. The flames that had enveloped the man's body were gone, along with his strength and consciousness. His eyes remained closed, making him no different from an ordinary corpse as he helplessly collapsed between Nan Gongliu's claws.

    Upon seeing Mo Ran and Chu Wanning, Xue Zhengyong rushed over, urgently calling out, "Ran'er, Yu Heng, are you alright? Meng... Meng'er?! Where is he?!"

    Mo Ran hurriedly reassured him, "Xue Meng is fine. He's over there—"

    Xue Zhengyong looked in the direction pointed out and saw Xue Meng completely wrapped up in a giant vine. Only his pale face was visible, causing his expression to change as he stumbled towards his son. Mo Ran held him back, saying, "Uncle, he's just temporarily unconscious. He'll be alright soon. It's safer for him inside the vine. Don't go over there. Stay with us."

    Xue Zhengyong asked anxiously, "What happened? From afar, I could see a vengeful spirit descending, and Sect Leader Nan... " He turned around, catching sight of Nan Gongliu standing in the lava, holding the lifeless corpse in his arms. His voice trailed off.

    Something suddenly felt off. That corpse... why did it seem familiar?

    It felt like a very, very long time ago... too long ago... He seemed to have seen this man's face before...

    This person's features were too ordinary, easily lost in the annals of time, so Xue Zhengyong couldn't recall him immediately. But something felt off, everything felt wrong. At that moment, he saw Nan Gongliu abruptly lift his head, blood streaking across his face, yet his mouth was stretched wide in a grin.

    Nan Gongliu was laughing uproariously, his eyes glowing with an unusual radiance, completely different from his usual obsequious demeanor.

    Among those who had rushed over were Ye Wangxi and Nan Gongsi.

    Nan Gongsi murmured, "Father..."

    Ye Wangxi, on the other hand, spotted Xu Shuanglin beside her and exclaimed in shock, "Foster father?!"

    Xu Shuanglin glanced at Ye Wangxi and shook his head, signaling for her not to approach. Amidst the blazing lava, his robe slightly unbuttoned, his loose white undergarment fluttered in the wind. A hint of nonchalance graced his lips as he lifted his chin slightly, gazing at the frenzied spectacle before him, the fiery hell of red lotus.

    Barefoot, his rounded toes wiggled, kicking up sparks as they touched the ground. Then, he lowered his head, seemingly waiting for something. The reflection of the flames danced in his eyes, like golden-red carp swimming through a dark pond.

    "Ahh—!"

    Suddenly, a female cultivator in the crowd let out a startled cry.

    Xu Shuanglin didn't lift his head, only smiling. Of course, he knew what was happening; he had heard the sound of flesh being devoured.

    Behind him, Nan Gongliu clamped his hands on the man's shoulders. Under the moonlight, he ripped open the man's neck and greedily sucked on the blood plasma.

    After that initial scream, no one else made a sound. No one blamed, for everyone was momentarily bewildered by the scene before them, all stunned...

    The leader of the renowned Confucian Wind Sect, Nan Gongliu, was actually devouring a corpse in such a pathetic and ferocious manner?

    This... how... could it be possible...

    "Father!!"

    Nan Gongsi was the first to break down. He ran wildly towards Nan Gongliu, and Ye Wangxi, unable to hold him back, ran alongside him to stand before the sect leader.

    "Father, what are you doing? What are you doing!"

    "Leader—"

    Nan Gongliu ignored them, continuing to feast ravenously. The cloth he had used to cover his face had long since fallen away, revealing his crimson, wrinkled flesh that kept convulsing under the moonlight, causing him even more agony. The more pain he felt, the more frenziedly he chewed on the corpse's flesh, as if it were a sweet spring, a bitter yet beneficial medicine, an escape he desperately sought but could not attain.

    Some cultivators couldn't bear it any longer; retching sounds emerged from the crowd. Weak whispers echoed, "How could this be..."

    "Madmen... Madmen..."

    "How revolting..."

    The moonlight shifted gently, casting its glow upon Nan Gongliu. He first lowered his head, convulsing as saliva and pus mixed with blood trickled from the corners of his mouth. Then, he suddenly lifted his head, opening his sticky, blood-filled maw and let out a terrifying bellow, "AHHHHH!!! AAAAAHHH!!"

    The flesh on his face didn't mend from consuming that man's corpse; it continued to tear under the moon's light.

    His face was already covered in blood, save for the whites of his eyes. He threw the corpse to the ground and stepped on it, then fiercely grabbed Xu Shuanglin's collar, roaring like an animal, "What's going on? Why isn't it working... It's not working!"

    His meridians bulged visibly, his hands trembled uncontrollably, and his eyes were reddened with bloodshot veins. Large tears rolled down his cheeks from the unbearable pain.

    "Pain... It's killing me... I wish I could die... I wish I could die!!" he groaned, his voice tinged with despair. Suddenly, an idea struck him, and he released Xu Shuanglin, bending down to rip out the man's heart. "Spirit core! It must be that my power isn't sufficient yet... I'll consume his spirit core! Spirit core... Spirit core, spirit core..."

    He delved into the man's chest wound with his hand, incessantly caressing and fondling, his palm stained with blood, bordering on madness.

    To his surprise, a sharp claw suddenly pierced through his back, viciously tearing through his ribs!

    Blood erupted wildly!

    Nan Gongliu was momentarily stunned, seemingly not yet realizing what had just transpired. He didn't feel any pain as he turned back in a daze.

    With bloodshot eyes, he saw Xu Shuanglin lift his gaze, a smile gracing his clean and refreshed face.

    "What's the point of eating? For someone like you, it's a waste no matter what you consume."

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